CRANBURY, NJ - During the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce “Meet the Mayors” panel on Tuesday, Mayor David Cook said that distracted driving may have been a factor in the May 10 hit-and-run that sent 13-year-old resident Mia Huang to the hospital and killed her pet dog Panda.
“You don't have to be speeding to be looking at your cell phone, and if you're doing that and you're crossing into a crosswalk and you're not paying attention, if someone's in that crosswalk they can get hit,” Cook said. “Distracted driving can be a component, speeding may be but there were no skid marks (at the accident scene) that would give us an idea that the person was speeding and trying to stop.”
Cook also said that the township would be refocusing its police presence to the downtown area in light of the accident.
According to Chief of Police Rickey Varga, Mia and Panda were crossing Main Street at the Evans Drive crosswalk around 6:18 p.m. when they were struck by a suspected 2008 or 2009 champagne Ford Expedition, possibly with silver trim.
According to Varga, the force of the impact would have caused light damage to the front driver's side of the vehicle.
The driver did not stop to render aid to the girl and fled the scene, heading north on Main Street, Varga said.
Cranbury Police, Cranbury Volunteer Fire Company and Cranbury First Aid Squad all responded to the scene and Mia was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with non-life-threatening injuries.
According to her father, Andrew Huang, Mia sustained a concussion, left lung contusion and road rash over most of her body in the accident. Her back is also very painful and she could not move well shortly after the incident, he said.
Panda, however, did not survive the impact.
According to Huang, Panda likely saved Mia's life by absorbing most of the impact. Bystanders hugged the dog and comforted her until she passed away at the scene, he said.
In a message to the community May 11, Varga said that the police department is working very hard to find the driver.
“We are examining all physical evidence and witness accounts as we are actively following up to locate the driver who callously drove away without stopping,” Varga said. “Numerous witnesses were in the area; however, we are searching for all additional witnesses who may have seen something during this time frame. We will diligently pursue all leads as we are determined to apprehend the offender in this case.”
Varga said that vehicles matching the description that were seen in the vicinity of Route 130 or Plainsboro Road around that time are also of interest, as the driver may have headed in the direction of either road as they fled the scene.
Huang is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver who injured Mia and killed Panda. Individuals with information should contact Cranbury Police, he said.
Police ask anyone who may have been around the downtown village area during the given time frame May 10, who may have seen the vehicle or may have any information, to contact Cranbury Police at (609) 395-0031.
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